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Abstract

We use the spreads of emerging market bonds traded in secondary markets to study investors’ perception of country risk. Speci...cally, we ask whether investors apply the “sovereign ceiling,” which says that no ...rm is more creditworthy than its government. To do this we compare the spreads of bonds issued by ...rms to those of bonds issued by the ...rms’ home governments. We ...nd several cases where a ...rm’s bond trades at a lower spread than that of the ...rm’s government, indicating that investors do not always apply the sovereign ceiling. Bonds for which this is true tend to have substantial export earnings and/or a close relationship with either a foreign ...rm or with the home government. For countries with lower perceived default risk, we ...nd that investors do not believe that whenever the government defaults, the ...rm will default.

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